By Emily Harrington
You can’t miss them. They are huge, heavy and mostly made out of hunks of rock. These slabs of pale limestone are shaped, smoothed and displayed thanks to the work of Todd Frahm.
Frahm, a 1994 Unity High School graduate, has quite literally made his mark in our community.
His massive sculptures can be seen all around our towns amid many other masterpieces in Champaign-Urbana. It’s obvious there’s a theme to his work — children and animals. Frahm believes a child’s innocence and unblemished view of the world make them the perfect audience for his seemingly simple and playful work.
Frahm’s favorite children’s books: “The Giving Tree,” “Horton Hears a Who,” and “Where the Wild Things Are” echo his appreciation for a child’s world that is full of imagination and creativity.
“I want children to appreciate the value in lasting beauty,” Frahm said.
Take a drive around our community with your kids, and admire Frahm’s big-boned creations.
- What? Limestone “Slow and Steady” animals and books
Where? The Urbana Free Library Green Street entrance
- What? Limestone “Arcas” bear
Where? The Pines on the corner of Philo and Windsor Roads
- What? Limestone “Decisions” animal
Where? Carle Park on West Indiana Avenue
- What? Limestone “Fly Fishing” frog
Where? Anita Purves Nature Center on North Broadway Avenue
- What? Limestone “El-Arairah” rabbit
Where? Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park on South Race Street
Want to see some atypical Frahm pieces? Next time you are around the Urbana Courthouse — look up, way up. He was commissioned to create the bronze gargoyles, “Atticus’ Kettles,” that hug the edges of the clock tower. (Frahm also works with bronze, steel and ceramic.) If you want to look at the progression of his talent with an early work, visit his turtle at the Tolono Public Library.
It’s important to reiterate the size of his public work. These sculptures aren’t just big, they are beyond life-size. Huge. Gigantic. Mammoth. For example, “Arcas,” the bear, stands 12 feet high and weighs around 40,000 pounds. “El-Arairah,” the rabbit, lies at 9 feet in length and weighs between 10,000 to 15,000 pounds.
Frahm typically sketches his vision on paper then creates a scale model. The once-hunks of limestone are then chiseled, sawed and smoothed into something their former crude selves wouldn’t recognize.
“[I use] everything from sand paper to diamond chainsaws, but mostly pneumatic carving hammers. I would use dynamite if I thought it would expedite the process,” Frahm joked.
The rock sculptures take anywhere from six weeks to six months to complete and they put many physical demands on the sculptor.
“Limestone is for people with more time than sense. If you want to wreck your body, be virtually unknown, but have very little competition — carve big rocks,” Frahm ribbed.
Much of Frahm’s public work is focused in C-U because of his Midwest roots and Illinois-based higher education. Frahm graduated from the University of Illinois with his Bachelor of Fine Arts, and obtained his Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
“I’m proud to say that the best of my values and core beliefs were a direct result of being raised in the Midwest,” Frahm said.
He has also completed large public work in California, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio. Frahm currently lives in North Carolina where he can be found chiseling away in an art studio.
“Limestone sort of chose me. I was lucky to learn from a lot of great sculptors in town,” Frahm said.
If you are interested in learning about another artist who delights the bright young eyes of our community, read about muralist Glen C. Davies. If you are interested in commissioning one heck of a garden gnome, Frahm can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.